Scott Williams: Dear Utah, It’s OK to vote for Joe

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A video plays a short history of Vice President Joe Biden before he takes to the stage to speak at Kingsbury Hall on the University of Utah campus on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018, as part of the MUSE (My U Signature Experience) Project.

As a child, I saw the Wasatch Front as our fortress wall, a moral and mighty barrier to protect us from “Easterners” — the inhabitants of those chaotic lands of Chicago, Detroit, New York, and Washington, D.C., — images of which moved across our small TV screen with protests, discord, wild performance art and edgy music.

Sex, drugs and rock and roll, and race, were the playgrounds of other souls, a strangeness not found in 1960s Salt Lake City. To the west, California was no threat; they were preoccupied with weed and hippies.

There was nothing wrong in our hidden jewel of America. The air was clear, the airport was tiny, and Alta still had the single chair Collins lift. What could be better?

There were “infections” from “the east.” My father returned from a New York City business trip having seen “West Side Story” on Broadway and the album of that ground breaking, earthy American musical was played constantly. Leonard Bernstein’s beat gripped my imagination, as the Sharks and Chita Rivera, voices of a different land, taught me other reasons to like to be in America.

The politics of the state were solid Republican, not the bedrock GOP of my grandmothers Connecticut Yankee flavor, but rather the Promise of America kind that was forged by wagon trains of pioneers who defeated the elements and the earth and built a new home in the American far west to freely pray.

Still, Utah produced some wonderful Democratic leaders. The former governors Cal Rampton and Scott Matheson, Sen. Frank Moss and Rep. Wayne Owens. And my first congressional boss, Gunn McKay, an honest, solid-as-Utah-granite of a man, who taught us wide-eyed interns that the genius and divine inspiration of our system of government is the fact that one can engage in vigorous, intense debate on the House floor, and then break bread with your colleague and friend in the House Dining Room right underneath the Chamber.

Utah is now world famous for its Olympics, its skiing, its faith, its energy. Salt Lake City is a global voice, its airport is huge and eventually fleets of Delta jets will again zip across the Wasatch, filling the valley with ideas, enterprise, and people. That doesn’t mean Utah’s core values of family, faith and industry have dissipated; in fact they are the very strengths drawing people to The Beehive State.

Which is why this election Utahans might consider setting political labels aside, as they have done before, and be open to Joe Biden as a possible choice for their presidential vote. It’s very possible Utah could send the strongest and most significant moral message to the nation.

It seems the red and blue divisions have, despite the best efforts of the political industrial complex, become blurred. COVID-19 has, perhaps, made us feel a bit deeper about others, and the narrative of race has reached a new level of consciousness within America public. How does Utah process these emotional currents, and reconcile the truth of the community’s own history to flee discrimination to a place of safety and security for faith and life? A lot of Americans are thinking about these things these days.

In this context, all the cards should be are on the table this election. Traditional silos should be set aside. While there may be specific issues and policy disagreements with Joe Biden, those are less worrisome questions than the one we need to ask ourselves today: who are we?

Different points of view need to be respected and validated. And the most important message is for us to do our civic duty, and vote, and express those views, openly and freely. While the world has come to Utah, it has not altered its foundation of family and faith.

That bedrock won’t be changed by a presidential election. But it may be what we are truly voting for this year.

A native of Utah, Scott Williams is a communications consultant in Washington, D.C.

Scott Williams, a Utah native, is a communications consultant in Washington, D.C.